Monday, 5 September 2011

Book: The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick

Score: 4 / 5

I read this book because Facebook had reached 500 million users globally by 2010 and I wanted to understand what social networks mean and how Facebook “did it”.  Though the book was a bit long for me, it provided good insights into the question.

This book is a detailed history of Facebook up to 2010 – its inception, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, investor relations, privacy, social impact, and possible future.

I had found the following things about Facebook interesting:

  • it started at Harvard as a universal online Facebook to consolidate the “silo” paper facebooks from the Harvard houses
  • It was the first major social network based on real identity, which allowed for significantly more granular and accurate targeted advertising.
  • Its large scale use of social network as a mechanism for automatically distributing information helps to advertise brands and generate demand for them (seeing what your friends bought through News Feed might nudge you to buy them, too), whereas Google’s search advertising is for showing you things you know you already want.
  • A big part of Facebook’s initial success lies in it being exclusively available to university and college students, where people are most “socially connected” to each other.
  • Facebook focused relentlessly on performance of the site and simplicity of features, contrary to some major social sites at the time.
  • Mark had wanted to build Facebook as a platform from the start.  Facebook’s application is now viewed as a training tool for what adding a social layer to sites would mean.  In the future, Facebook’s focus will be more around providing the social data services to various sites on the web to build up the social platform.  Facebook Connect is first such steps.

My favourite parts of the book are anecdotes around Mark’s personality.  Here is one of them.

Mark had just brought in Sheryl Sandberg, an ex-Googler, as his second-in-command.  They had just gotten out of a meeting where Sandberg proposed something Mark didn’t totally agree on.  And…

Zuckerberg walked out alongside Sandberg.

   “I’m really sorry,” he said

   “For what?”

   “Well, I rolled my eyes.”

   “I didn’t even notice.”

   “Well,” Zuckerberg said, “I’m bringing you in here and I know I need to empower you and make sure everyone knows I believe in you, and I shouldn’t be rolling my eyes.”

She was impressed Zuckerberg would call himself out for such a minor infraction.  “I said to myself, ‘This is going to work,’” she recalls.

Enjoy!  :)

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